Grand Canyon – West Rim

Grand Canyon West Rim is a 2.5 hour drive from Las Vegas. If you are in Las Vegas and have never been to the Grand Canyon, the West Rim is certainly worth the trip. You can also stop at Hoover Dam which you will pass traveling to and from Grand Canyon West. While Grand Canyon West is part of the Grand Canyon, it is not part of the Grand Canyon National Park system. Instead, it is located on the Hualapai Reservation and operated by the Hualapai Tribe. If you are planning a trip specifically to visit the Grand Canyon for several days, the South Rim is the place to go.

I headed out of Vegas around 7 am filled with anticipation and arrived at Grand Canyon West a couple hours later. After paying the park admission fee and taking a short shuttle bus ride, I finally laid eyes on the Grand Canyon.

I couldn’t really grasp what I was seeing…massive, sprawling, and absolutely breathtaking. It was hard to wrap my mind around a place so unlike anything I had ever seen before. The passing of millions upon millions of years was evident before me and etched into the canyon walls. I feel very fortunate to have seen some amazing sights in my life, but this was overwhelming – spiritual.

I was also surprised by the lack of safety features around the view points. There was nothing. My hands are sweating right now thinking about how I could walk right up the edge and one step further would be the end.

I do okay with heights but this danger certainly had my undivided attention.

Yikes!
Taking a photo of someone taking a photo of someone taking a photo.

I had an amazing afternoon at Grand Canyon West. Buying your admission ticket online will save time. There are many tour bus options out of Vegas but a rental car will allow you travel at your own pace. Traveling in a V-8 Dodge Challenger added to the day’s excitement for me.

The park uses shuttle buses to get you from point to point. There are three stops on the route with the second and third stops being Grand Canyon view points. The third stop was my favorite because it had more views and a small peak you could hike up and truly feel on top of the world. The much touted “Skywalk” is at stop #2. There is an additional fee for the Skywalk and you aren’t allowed to take photos. Instead, they have photographers that will take photos of you and sell them to you. Not a big fan of that setup and didn’t participate.

If you are in Las Vegas and want to get out of the city for a day, Grand Canyon West is a great excursion. You will drive right past the Hoover Dam so be sure to stop and check it out as well.

Amalfi Coast, Italy

The Amalfi Coast is a breathtaking stretch of rugged coastline and vibrant villages. Located between the larger towns of Sorrento and Salerno in the Campania region of Italy, the Amalfi Coast has been designated as an UNESCO World Heritage Site.

My family’s trek to the Amalfi Coast began with a train ride from Naples to Salerno. Once in Salerno (which is a charming town as well), we had the option of riding a bus through tight mountain roads to the smaller towns or taking a ferry. As you can see below, the ferry offers sweeping views of dramatic coastline, vibrant villas, terraced vineyards, and cliffside lemon groves.

Our time was somewhat limited so we were only able to spend time in the villages of Amalfi and Positano. Here are some of my favorites from Amalfi taken in the village and from the ferry.

From Amalfi, we hopped on another ferry and made our way to Positano. While already part of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, my daughter informed me it is also a premier spot for a coveted Instagram photo. Let me tell you, it isn’t an easy shot to get. As you are gaining access to the beach, I wouldn’t mention anything about taking a photo.

Our time was cut short in Positano by rain and rough seas. The last image is where the ferry docks to load passengers. Somehow, the captain managed to get us loaded for the last ferry out. If you are planing a similar trip the Amalfi Coast, there are ferry options out of Naples as well as Sorrento which, in hindsight, may have been the most scenic option. The only real downside for taking the ferry is weather. If the forecast is good, go for it.

Rio de Janeiro – The Selaron Steps

Escadaria de Selaron (Selaron steps) is a world-famous artistic site in Rio de Janeiro. The tiled steps are the work of Jorge Selaron who created this space as tribute to the Brazilian people.

He shared his story on the tiles below.

Over the years, Jorge Selaron’s art received international recognition and his street art has become a major tourist attraction in Rio. His work was even featured in Brazil’s Olympic promotional video.

The Instagram location…
…but the stairs keep going and going.

While Selaron purchased many completed artistic tiles or had tiles donated by others, he used many of them as a canvas for his own paintings.

Selaron was found dead on his stairs at the age of 65. At last, his work was complete. Escadaria Selaron lives on as major attraction in Rio de Janerio.

Jorge Selaron

More from Brazil:

Basel, Switzerland

The ancient history of Basel is beyond the scope of this photography-centered post. However, I personally enjoy having a little historical context around the places I am exploring. Briefly, Basel was touched by the Celts as early as 100 BC to 50 AD, followed by the Romans in the 1st and 2d century. After that, Basel came under the control of the Old-World kingdoms that have now evolved into France, Germany, and Hungary. In 1500, Basel joined the Swiss Confederation and is now one of the three largest cities in Switzerland.

Basel, like many cities, has an “Old Town”. Much of the old-town architecture of note seems to come from 1300 – 1700. Your approach into Old Town Basel will likely begin with a crossing of the Mittlere Bridge.

Mittlere Bridge
View from Mittlere Bridge
View from Mittlere Bridge

Mittlere Bridge crosses the Rhine at a point that is one of the oldest crossings on the Rhine. The bridge we see today was built in 1905 and replaced the original bridge built in 1226. A copy of the old bridge chapel – the Käppelijoch – was added to the new bridge. In the middle ages, criminals were sentenced to death at the Käppelijoch.

Käppelijoch

After crossing Mittlere, you have some great destinations to choose from. I began with Marktplatz which is the central square of Old Town. Dominating the view in this square is the vibrant red Basel Rathaus (old town hall). The center portion of the building was built in the early 1500’s with the tower and left wing (as you face it) added in the 1800’s. If you zoom in on the second image, the detailed art on the building is amazing. Marktplatz is filled with shops and places to eat…and I ate plenty.

Leaving Marketplatz, I next set my sights on the old city gate and the walk there was filled with vibrant colored homes.

Approaching Spalentor Gate

Spalentor (c. 1370) is a medieval city gate and all that remains of what was once the fortified city walls of old town Basel.

Located near Spalentor is Saint Peter’s Church built in the early 1300s.

After visiting Spalentor, I turned towards another key city square in Old Town. Munsterplatz is a square surrounding the historic Basler Munster (Basel Minster) church.

Munsterplatz

A Roman fort one stood on these grounds in the 2nd century. Most of the existing buildings today were built in the 1700s. Off to the right of picture below (not shown) is a nice park area with benches to relax and enjoy the scenery. The church is certainly a focal point in this square as it has been throughout the ages regardless of which city-state or nation controlled the area.

As you can see in the photos below, Basler Munster (Basel Minster) has tall spires and vibrant roof top tiles. The church was built and expanded between the 9th – 13th century. Partially destroyed by an earthquake in 1356, it was rebuilt in the Gothic style we see today.

Basler Munster sits upon the highest point in Basel. The Rhine river was of critical importance for trade and movement of supplies so the city and waterway needed to be defended. The elevation of this point optimized defensive positions. The presence of a fort and soldiers drove the need for a place of worship upon this plateau.

This is just a small sample of things to do and see in Basel, but they were points of interests that captured my imagination in the limited time I had available. Basel is on the border of France and Germany and within relatively short train rides to Zurich and Geneva so it is a central location for day trips to other areas as well.

Burano, Italy – Color & Texture

Burano is an island in the Venice lagoon (a 40-minute ferry from Venice) famous for its vibrant buildings and lacemaking. I don’t believe I have ever seen a place more densely packed with vibrant colors and textures in my life. I’ll let the photos tell the story.

Leaning Tower of…Burano (built in 1703)

On The Way to Burano

Located along the waterway between Venice and Murano, there is a small island called San Michele that contains the San Michele in Isola church. Completed in 1469 and dedicated to Saint Michael, the church once served as a monastery and is one of the first examples of Renaissance architecture in Venice. Today, the island is a large cemetery.

San Michele in Isola

Traveling to Burano, you’ll also pass the island of Murano which is worthy of a stop. Murano is world famous for glass making…a tradition stemming from the late Medieval and Renaissance periods.

Murano

For more on Italy:

Monterey, California

Monterey, California had always been high on my bucket list, and I couldn’t wait to expose my family to the sights I had long dreamed of seeing. The town of Monterey would be wonderful to visit but what really had my heart racing was finally making the drive along the Pacific Coast Highway towards Big Sur.

It has been several years since we made this memorable journey. Now, I look forward to piecing it back together with this stroll down memory lane.

We stayed at the Monterey Plaza Hotel and Spa with a room overlooking Monterey Bay. Below, my daughter experiments with some creative photography on the balcony.

On the left side of the courtyard (in the image above) is a fire pit and seating where we enjoyed several relaxing sunsets looking out onto the bay. We were also within walking distance of the bustling Cannery Row which is filled with retail stores, restaurants, bars, and the renowned Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Even the early morning runs provided with memorable views:

Taking in the sights and experiences of Monterey were wonderful. However, the trip down the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) was a different kind of wonderful. The Bixby Creek Bridge is a famous landmark along the PCH.

The panoramic cliffside views were breathtaking. I was also able to get a bit closer to the waterline at times to witness and almost feel the powerful force of nature that is still carving her masterpiece.

And even closer…

After dozens of stops at cliffside lookouts, each more visually compelling than previous stop, we reluctantly turned around and headed back to Monterey. But, there is always time for one last photo as I capture my wife and son in a selfie moment.

My wife and son taking one last shot for the road

Along the way back, we stopped for dinner at a seaside restaurant.

While the name of the place is lost to memory, I do have vivid memories of sitting on the patio with my family enjoying a meal while taking in a sweeping view of the Pacific Ocean from our cliffside perch. We were even treated with an all too short but magical whale sighting.

Brief History of the Monterey Area

Native Americans Native Americans first settled the area now known as Monterey and existed in a fishing and gathering-type society when Spanish explorers first arrived.

Spanish Discovery Spanish seafaring explorers first discovered the area known today as Monterey Bay in 1602 and suggested it was a suitable area for a potential port. It would take over 150 years for Spain to dispatch a land expedition to further explore the area in 1769 and establish a settlement – the second city established in California. San Diego is the only California city that is older.

Argentine Invasion On November 24, 1818, Argentina landed a military force that captured Monterey. The Spanish fort was taken and burned along with many of the buildings in this early Monterey settlement. Argentina’s occupation lasted only six days.

Mexico Takes Control In 1821, Mexico gained independence from Spain and Monterey became a possession of Mexico. There was little impact on the area and life continued much as it had while under Spain. One notable exception was the expansion of ranches through land grants.

Mexican – American War The Battle of Monterey took place on July 7, 1846 between U.S. and Mexico. American troops captured the city and claimed California for the United States. California became a state in 1850.

Monterey prospered as a fishing village (driven in large part by Japanese and Chinese migrants) through 1950 before exhausting its most vital resource – fish (especially sardines). Today, the area is more focused on tourism, marine biology, and is part of a marine sanctuary (an oceanic national park) that extends from Santa Barbara to San Francisco. A notable feature in Monterey Bay is the kelp forest which can be viewed up close in a kayak.

Monterey or nearby Carmel are great places for a family vacation. There is plenty to do and see in these two small towns and you can visit each of them easily regardless of which city you decide to stay in. Of course, a drive down the Pacific Coast Highway is a must while you are in the area.

Boston, Massachusetts – Charles River

It was a cold but vibrant fall day as I walked along Charles River in 2019. If one of my children happen to read this some day and want to trace Dad’s steps, I began near the Liberty Hotel and walked south along the river before cutting away to walk the Freedom Trail. I probably spent 5 hours on the freedom trail which left me in the northern part of Boston. My trip back to the hotel was north to south along the river.

I began by walking south of the hotel…

View from pedestrian bridge crossing over highway.
Checking out the waterfront with my new friends.
Still heading south…
Looking back at the bridge in the previous photo.

At this point, I left the river and headed over to the Freedom Trail. There is another pedestrian bridge that will take you over the highway.

The photos below were taken after completing the Freedom Trail and during my walk back along the river. As a point of reference, after completing the Freedom Trail you are a couple miles from the Liberty Hotel and also on the opposite side of the river. No worries, there will be a bridge to cross as you get closer to the hotel.

There are several park areas and alternate paths to explore along the river during the walk back.
Cross this bridge and keep heading south.

Additional posts from Boston, Massachusetts:

  • The Freedom Trail – Historic sites of the American Revolution
  • The Liberty Hotel – Former state prison transformed into a luxury hotel (coming soon)

U.S. Virgin Islands

The U.S. Virgin Islands are an American territory in the Caribbean known for beautiful sandy beaches, coral reefs, and sparkling clear water. Some of the islands are mountainous due to their volcanic origins. Others are relatively flat and formed by exposed reefs as ocean levels lowered. The latter is how the Florida Keys were formed as well.

Note: The photos don’t really follow the narrative…just sprinkling them in.

Basking in a tropical climate, temperatures for the Virgin Islands average temperatures hang around 90 degrees all year long during the day and dip into the mid-70’s during the evening. The three main islands are Saint Croix, Saint John, and Saint Thomas. There are a number of smaller islands as well.

Archeologists believe the Virgin Islands were originally settled by Native Americans originating from South America around 1,000 BC. Europeans first discovered the islands in 1493 during Christopher Columbus’ second exploration of the New World. Over the next few centuries, Spain, Britain, France, and the Denmark would each stake claim to these islands.

Denmark established settlements on St. Thomas and St. John in the late 1600’s and purchased St. Croix from France in 1733. The islands officially became colonies of Denmark in 1754 with sugar plantations being the primary economic driver. Most of those plantations exist today only as ruins and are scattered about the islands.

The United States eventually purchased the Virgin Islands from Denmark in 1917 after 50 years of ongoing negotiations. Today, tourism is the primary economic driver of the Virgin Islands’ economy. Rum production is also notable (along with its consumption).

Sunset at the Marriott Resort on St. Thomas

Marienplatz – Munich, Germany

Established in 1158, Marienplatz is the historic central square in Munich, Germany. It has evolved over the centuries with new buildings and how the square is used but it has always been a place to gather. Today it is filled with restaurants, shops, and must-see architecture.

Heading towards Marienplatz, I am filled with anticipation. I realize it probably sounds a little silly, but these moments remind me of the feeling I had as a child on Christmas morning. The sights awaiting me are like gifts, and I can’t wait to see them.

Arriving on the west side of Old Town and west Marienplatz, I see the Karlstor. Karlstor is one of three remaining town gates from medieval Munich’s city wall. The city wall was a defensive fortification for Munich. It is thought to have been built around 1300 when Munich’s city wall fortifications were expanded.

Karlstor

Once inside the gate, I am in “Old Town” Munich. It seems that Old Town and Marienplatz are sometimes used interchangeably but Marienplatz is actually the name of the main city square inside Old Town. As I walk along Neuhauserstraße – a pedestrian walkway that has existed since 1293 -towards Marienplatz, the view is breathtaking.

Bürgersaalkirche Church (c. 1710)

In the image below, the white building is St. Michael’s Church completed in 1597. The building to left, known as the Old Academy, was designed originally as a college and completed in 1590. The building to the right is what was once the Augustinian Church originally built in the 1200’s and added to over the centuries. Today, it houses a German fishing and hunting museum, shops, and a few government offices.

St. Michael’s Church

After a short walk (that I was in no hurry to complete), the road changes into Kaufingerstraße and the towers of Frauenkirche begin to really capture my attention.

The Frauenkirche is a Gothic cathedral completed in 1488. It dominates the Munich skyline and no new buildings in Munich are allowed to exceed the height of the Frauenkirche towers.

Continuing down the road towards Marienplatz, I couldn’t imagine seeing anything more incredible than I had already seen and then…the New Town Hall. Wow! The building is a massive Gothic style structure that still serves as a government building today for the Munich Mayor and other city council and government officials. Construction began on the New Town Hall in 1887 and was completed in 1905. How is that for a building called the “New” Town Hall?

This building also houses the famous Rathaus-Glockenspiel. Consisting of 43 bells and large figures, it chimes every day at 11 a.m. and 12 p.m. (and 5 pm in the summer) to begin the reenactment of two 16th century stories important in Munich’s history. The performance lasts about 15 minutes.

Marienplatz was named after the Mariensäule (the Marian column) erected in the city center in 1638. These columns are common throughout Europe and usually depict the Virgin Mary or other Christian symbol on top of the column. They were typically erected in cities to celebrate the end of the plague or other significant events in a city’s history. In Munich, the Marian column was erected to celebrate the end of Swedish occupation after the Thirty Years War.

So, we have the New Town Hall but became of the old Town Hall? I didn’t really get a great shot of it but did the best I could to salvage the photo below.

Old Town Hall

Old Town Hall has some interesting history associated with it. The tower (right of center) was built on one of Munich’s original gates (the Talburgtor) in the late 1100’s and is now part of the Old Town Hall tower. The building to the left of the tower is Old Town Hall and was built around 1300. The facade has been remodeled several times over the centuries to reflect evolving architectural tastes. The building serves as a toy museum today.

Next on my list was to find the spot where people take the photo overlooking Marienplatz. It took some looking but I eventually found the high tower. There is a small entrance fee along with a steeeep stairwell but worth every step for the view.

While there is still much to explore in Marienplatz, there are also is a lot to see beyond Marienplatz within walking distance. I spent the rest of the day exploring beyond Marienplatz but ended the day right where I started. Time to enjoy a refreshing drink in the same square people have gathered for over 800 years.

Marienplatz is a great location to end the day

More from Munich – Englischer Garten

Charleston, South Carolina – The Battery (Homes)

Founded in 1670 and originally named Charles Town in honor of King Charles II of England, Charleston is the oldest city in South Carolina. South Carolina was one of the original Thirteen British Colonies. By 1690, Charleston was the fifth largest city in North America. Charleston adopted its present spelling with its incorporation as a city in 1783 at the close of the Revolutionary War. Charleston remained one of the 10 largest cities in the U.S until 1840.

Modern Charleston offers visitors small-town charm but is filled with big time attractions. This Southern city has a rich history, well-preserved architecture, top-notch restaurants and bars, and friendly people filled with Southern hospitality. This makes it a popular tourist destination often mentioned among top-cities to visit in the world by travel magazines such Travel and Leisure and Conde Naste Traveler.

The Charleston Battery

My focus today is on the area of Charleston known as the Battery. Visiting the Battery today you will see locals and tourists alike enjoying views of the Charleston Harbor and antebellum mansions, walking their dog, or enjoying a leisurely walk or run through White Point Gardens.

The Battery’s origin dates back to 1737 as a landmark defensive seawall and promenade. Given Charleston’s prominence and importance as a port in early American history, it was necessary to have a place for artillery to defend the city and harbor. It saw action in the American Revolutionary War, War of 1812, and the American Civil War. War memorials as spread throughout the park.

A Few Featured Homes

The Edmonton-Alston House (1825) is now a museum open for tours. It was one the first mansions homes built along the Battery and featured a Federal styling. Originally built by Charles Edmonston, the home was sold to Charles Alston and remains in the Alston family. Mr. Alston updated the home with Greek Revival stylings.

Edmonston-Alston House

The William Washington house (c. 1768) shown in the image below on the left is the only pre-Revolutionary house on Charleston’s Battery. It was built in the Georgian style by Thomas Savage. In December 1785, Mr. Savage sold the home to Revolutionary War hero William Washington.

William-Washington House (left side of image)

The Roper House is a Greek Revival home built in 1838 for cotton planter Robert William Roper. His father donated funds for Roper Hospital which is still serving people in Charleston. Mr. Roper died of Malaria in 1845 and the home has exchanged hands several times. I found it interesting that Solomon R. Guggenheim (Guggenheim museum in New York) once owned the home. Several former U.S. Presidents and international leaders have visited and stayed in this home.

The Roper House

The antebellum mansion called “Zero Water Street” (c. 1837) is one of twelve historic homes on the “High Battery”. In the image below, it is the center mansion of the first three shown. The third floor suite is available for vacation rental – Zerowaterstreet.com

The Charles Drayton house (c. 1885) features Medieval European and Chinese architectural references. Drayton came from a family that had made it’s wealth from a rice plantation (Drayton Hall Plantation). After the Civil War, Charles turned his attention to a successful business venture in mining phosphate from the Ashley River near his family’s plantation.

Charles Drayton House

Two Meeting Street Inn is a popular bed and breakfast on the Battery.

Two Meeting Street Inn

This post will continue to evolve as I gather more photos and interesting facts about the Battery in my travel to historic Charleston. In the meantime, time to catch a carriage and enjoy the ride through the rest of a city with so much still to see.

Where in the world…

Englischer Garten – Munich, Germany

Established in 1785, Munich’s Englischer Garten (English Garden) is a beautiful oasis within walking distance of Marienplatz (the historic city center). Covering 910 acres – including 6 miles of winding streams, a lake, and miles of winding paths for running, walking, and cycling – the Englischer Garten offers a respite from city life.

While staying in Munich city center, I enjoyed several several runs in the Englischer Garten. It was breathtaking.

In 1972, a Japanese garden was created on an island at the southern end of the garden to house an authentic teahouse. It was a gift to Bavaria for the 1972 Olympics from Soshitsu Sen, head of the Urasenke tea school in Kyoto. Traditional Japanese tea ceremonies takes place here regularly. I wasn’t looking for this specifically but believe I caught the island and edge of the teahouse in the photo below. The fall foliage had me distracted and also covered much of the teahouse from my angle.

Monopteros is a Greek-style temple built in 1838. I took the second image while standing in the temple and looking down into the park.

Running along a stream, I unexpectedly came across surfers in the garden at the Eisbachwelle.

Surfing on….

There is much more to see in the Englischer Garten to include the Bavarian National Museum (located at the edge of the park) which contains medieval Bavarian sculptures and tapestries. If only every day were bright and sunny…

If you are in Munich, it is worth carving out several hours to visit the garden (probably best explored on a bike due to it’s size). An early to mid-morning or late afternoon to early evening visit would be best to capture the natural beauty in the best lighting.

Munich is located in Bavaria which is one of sixteen German states. Bavaria once existed as an independent kingdom with a distinctive history and became part of a unified Germany in 1918.